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Expose

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My last day on air at AM 1570: Goodbye to radio, hello to the brave world of the web!

Posted on 29 January 2010 by Nestor Aparicio

As you probably know, beginning on Monday, we’re going to begin a week-long series on the state of Baltimore sports journalism. And where this is all going? And how this radio, print, television & “new media thing” really works. “A WNST Expose’ on Sports Journalism in Baltimore: Is this Medium Well Done?” will be an eye-opening look at the inner-workings of sports media here in the town that I’ve loved since 1968 told by a true insider – me!

Expose

It’s more of a mini-series than a blog. It’s designed to separate facts from fiction of media past, present and future. It’s taken me about 26 years of living it and now that WNST.net is the No. 1 most-visited sports website in the region, I think it’s time that I’ve said a few things that need to be said about the state of this business and how much “times have changed.”

It’ll be the true story of life in the 2010 world of Baltimore sports media that Ray Frager — a former boss and media “critic” of mine at The Baltimore Sun who publicly hated, doubted and discarded my show and my brand and my expertise, information and business for more than a decade with his witticisms and a keen “out of town” perspective about Baltimore sports media – never got around to telling you about because he never took the time to understand the business, politics and measurement of local sports media.

He didn’t even understand what the Arbitron ratings represented but he knew how to parrot out the statistics, which we’ll prove next week are not even remotely accurate if not outright lies! But we all know that once the lie gets told once, it gets repeated a thousand times.

If you’re one of those who keeps up with local business (in other words, one of the “smart” ones), this will be an eye-opening look at what’s happened to the integrity in the Baltimore sports media over the last 25 years since the passing of the likes of Jim McKay, Chris Thomas, Charley Eckman and John Steadman – and the “moving on” of Frank DeFord and dozens of other writers and broadcasters to a national position from Dan Shaughnessy to Nick Charles from Ken Rosenthal to Tim Kurkjian to Buster Olney to John Saunders and on and on — who were the pioneers over the last 30 years and who left legacies that I still chase every day of my life.

If you’re one of those who doesn’t understand “the business of media” and you can’t possibly comprehend how happy the Orioles’ ownership is to be making $40 million in profit while the stadium and downtown sits empty and they lose 98 games every year – all while OWNING the pockets and voices of most of the traditional media in Baltimore, well, honestly – this is all going to go a little over your head. You might want to skip it for fear of actually learning something that resembles the truth.

(It’s kinda like the Rodney Dangerfield scene in “Back To School” where he teaches the “real” way business is conducted not the way they teach it formally in college! You either get it, or you don’t. And if you do want to “get it” and be educated, I’m here to give you a Master’s dissertation at 41 and after living this reality of Baltimore sports media over the last 26 years.)

If you’re one of those who can somehow defend the actions, business practices and stewardship of Peter Angelos and the Orioles over the last 13 years, then you’ll probably find a way to refute the facts of the next week in regard to statistical data bearing out that WNST.net is fastest-growing media company in the state of Maryland. You might even be foolish enough to not realize that all of the employees of MASN, CBS Radio, WJZ-TV and Pressbox ostensibly work for him.

But as Forrest Gump so boldly put it: “Stupid is as Stupid does…”

I can only state the facts and back them up with evidence and empirical data – just like Steadman and my father taught me. After that it’s up to you…and we even let you write and encourage you to write what YOU think here on WNST.net. The only thing we ask is that you spell your name correctly and take accountability for your thoughts and words.

Thus is the beauty of the internet and my intoxication with it: free speech in an open and shareable platform in a world that embraces individuality and excellence. It’s a great, magical time to be alive for a guy like me with a brand like WNST.net and the walls of corporate media domination rapidly falling in every corner of the world.

Hence, I’m hosting my final week of radio next week in Miami after hosting my final “in studio” show as a daily host today. After taking a four-year hiatus from daily hosting, I’ve been back on the air for the past 55 weeks for a variety of reasons and I’m delighted to be once again returning to my very happy life “behind the scenes” building the business of WNST in 2010 and beyond.

If anything, over the past year the internet has allowed me to be MUCH closer to my audience and Baltimore sports fans and I don’t look at “leaving radio” as anything more than “moving mediums” to the internet, where I can be in your ear as much as you want me. And WNST is in your pocket everywhere you go if you have a mobile device.

Don’t worry: I’ll never stop talking Baltimore sports.

I’ll be more accessible than ever — blogging, doing commercials, selling advertising, making videos, doing roadtrips, having fun in writing a book this year, gabbing in social media, hosting parties and doing the most important work of all – the business development of WNST.net as we grow into the new decade as the unquestioned market leader in Baltimore sports information in the only medium that matters moving forward – the internet.

And it’s my solemn vow to use what I know to educate our fans from this point forward in all aspects of Baltimore sports, including the business of local sports of which I’m an expert in the field of local marketing, journalism and the media business. No one in Baltimore can match up with the way we cover sports on the web.

In the “old world” that I was raised in here in Baltimore, it was the radio, television and newspaper. Now — instead in the Jetsons world of 2010 — I’ll be using the audio, video and blog components of WNST.net to give a reality-based look at life in Baltimore sports.

As such, next week each day we’ll present, discuss and opine about the whole gamut of Baltimore media:

Part 1 – “Baltimore’s sports media lineup” — We’ll identify the frauds in the media & some feelings will be hurt here…

Part 2 – Alexa – “Who is She?” The little retold lie about WNST having 10 listeners…

Part 3 – Content & Distribution – “Where do you get your Baltimore sports news & info and why?”

Part 4 – “Who are the biggest corporate whores in Baltimore sports media?” In other words: “Who is for sale, and who can you trust?”

Part 5 – “What is the future of Baltimore sports media?” What is catching your eyes & ears these days?

You might be shocked by some of this information. You’ll certainly be surprised at how a lot of this local sports media business works and how dramatically it’s changed. And you won’t be shocked to find out how unpopular it is amongst our competitors that “little WNST” is crushing the
“traditional big boys” in the new world of new media and social media, which makes them hate me even more.

That’s why they take away my press pass at Orioles games and none of my other “colleagues” even acknowledge how wrong it is. That’s why they keep telling the lies about signal strength and Arbitron numbers and lack of distribution. And that’s why they keep refusing to acknowledge any of our events, charitable work in the community or impact on the reporting of breaking sports news in Baltimore.

But that’s OK. I’ve been breaking news stories in Baltimore for 26 years and for 18 years on the radio and I’ve never, ever ONCE seen The Sun write “As first reported by WNST.net”…

And at this point, I don’t really want that to change. I kind of get a kick out of it!

But if I tweeted every time we send out a text on a story that ISN’T on the website of The Sun or MASN or any other local web entity, I’d seem like a bragging ass. But isn’t that what they all do at the alphabet-soup world of corporate media?

“As first reported by ESPN…blah-blah-blah…”

(And if you’re one of the 5,200 on our Text Service, then you know how good it is without me telling you about it. And if you’re NOT on the service and JOIN OUR TEXT SERVICE NOW, you won’t be disappointed. It’s the best thing we do at WNST!)

So this purposely self-indulgent yet informative piece of journalistic truth and analysis will be an ode to Ray Frager, who was the King of Arbitron ratings without ever writing the truth about the “fictional data mining” that they’ve been doing a for a few decades. I’ll expose that and “People Meters” next Tuesday.

So, in Frager’s honor and honor of his blog – “Medium Well” — I’m dubbing this weeklong, “investigative” look as “Medium Well Done?”

Along with my long-windedness, arrogance and accusations, that’s really the question I’m asking you:

Is Baltimore media well done?

For the record, I don’t think so. And that’s why I love WNST.net so much! Because I think we’re the best! And we wake up and work our asses off all day, every day to make it that way. And it’s finally being realized in the real data, numbers, volume of real people who interact with the WNST brand every day in Baltimore.

Some people are going to get their feelings hurt, but I’m writing a Master’s thesis in how this all works – the business of local sports media in Baltimore circa 2010. Where’s it’s been, where it’s “at” and where it’s going…

I’ve dedicated my entire life – ask anyone who’s ever really known me — to building Baltimore’s ultimate sports information company every day of my life since Jan. 23, 1984 when I was “hired” as an intern for “SportsFirst,” a daily train-wreck of a business model newspaper housed by the Hearst Corporation. Honestly, it’s been a strange kind of destiny over the past 26 years since I walked into The News American as a 15-year old intern from Dundalk who couldn’t type, with a pregnant girlfriend, that the world has opened up on the internet to give a guy like me a chance to go toe-to-toe and now surpass “the big boys” and corporate whores who’ve for so long dominated and stilted the way we consume our information about sports in Baltimore.

The internet and the phone that is in your hand or pocket is the ultimate equalizer. EVERYONE has access to WNST.net from anywhere in the world where there is cellphone service. Every day more people find us — on Twitter, Facebook, Google, You Tube, etc. And our website is clearly the best in the market for technology, distribution of the sponsors who keep us in business and the timely distribution of content.

There’s no more having a “small signal” or the inability to instantly transmit information or need for a printing press, an FCC license or a TV antenna to break news or give analysis or to move people to action. And in our sphere here at WNST.net, the engine is powered by the people who care enough to be involved daily – the real Baltimore sports fans who power these teams and their financial ability to be sustained.

All the walls have fallen in traditional media. It’s only the old, white people on the country club golf courses who haven’t caught up. Sadly, that encompasses much of the local sports media world.

My inspiration to ignite Free The Birds in 2006 was the Berlin Wall and that wall fell, too. And just like one day the Orioles will be owned by someone who help them win again and they will be revered in the community instead of a source of annual civic shame and embarrassment, the walls of information and media around the local sports scene have fallen dramatically and the joke is on the establishment that doesn’t recognize that they can no longer control the information, spin the truth or mask the lies.

And some in the establishment are still playing the Marxist “We’ll control all state information” role like Baghdad Bob with the Orioles. That’s just stupid and will never work in a free society with tools like the internet and social media.

Over the next week I’ll be presenting an in-depth look at the current “status” of local media and the measurement systems that in the new world of new media will evaluate the size of an entity, the reach of an entity and the influence of an entity.

We’ll ask you who YOU trust with your news, information and where you get it and why you get it from them. I hope you share it with your friends because I’d love to hear from all sorts of Baltimore sports fans because we want to make WNST.net the best – period!

Three years ago, this would’ve been impossible – this website launch and the power and reach and immediacy of social media. But, now through the power of what until recently was referred to as your “phone” – now a PDA, Blackberry, Iphone, Palm or Droid – you have WNST.net with you everywhere you go and available anytime and anyplace you want it.

So much for “how far does your signal go at little WNST-AM?”

Well, it goes AROUND THE WORLD in the PALM OF YOUR HAND now!

How’s that for “power” or “reach”? It doesn’t sound like 5,000 watts anymore, does it?

So much for the days of people saying: “Hey Nasty, I love your radio station but I can’t get it at night.” Now, I just say: “Are you on our text service?” or “Facebook friend me” or “Follow us on Twitter” or drop me an email at nasty@wnst.net and we’ll rock your world with what we’re doing on the web at WNST.net.

In Indianapolis two weeks ago where we threw the biggest party in town and took four busloads of Ravens Maniacs to Irsayland, the biggest music to my ears was having people say: “Hey Nestor, I’m your Facebook friend or I subscribe to your text service or I read your blogs every day on my phone.”

Over the next week I will prove to you – beyond the shadow of a doubt – that we are the fastest growing media entity in the city of Baltimore or anywhere in the region.

Actually, we’re the ONLY “growing” entity in the marketplace across all of the terrestrial (or is it dinosaur?) media: print, television and radio.

And I’ll also show you why we STILL aren’t being acknowledged as the market leader in the one place it counts – the cash register. And that’s mainly because the dinosaurs who run the local ad agencies and the local teams still don’t fully comprehend or acknowledge the power of the internet, which is astonishing when you consider how much of everyone’s day in our world is consumed with information, email, text and social media on a video screen of some kind.

(And unless you’re my 90-year old mother, you’re involved in several or all of the aforementioned! How do I know? Well, you’re READING THIS ON THE INTERNET!!!)

And I didn’t need a TV signal, a sweetheart cable deal or a printing press to get it to you. I own an FCC license, but I probably didn’t even use that to find you!

WNST.net is building a local social media firestorm and creating a new kind of company in a new kind of space on the internet. Like any other new company in a completely new era of marketing, we’ll continue to feel our way through the process, doing some things well and others not so well.

And that’s where our WNST Baltimore Sports Media Survey comes in…

Unlike the Orioles of Peter Angelos, we’re accountable here at WNST.net. I own the place. I’m out in front. I’ll take your questions. I’ll take your criticisms and try to improve what we do. I LOVE the pressure of the accountability of being great and being measured. I live for it! (Ask anybody who knows me…)

We don’t just think our product is the best in the marketplace, we think you think so too!

Beginning Monday, we’re distributing an extensive survey to all of our WNST.net users (new and old). It’ll be available all during the month of February. We’re giving away a 50” Big Screen TV to one lucky person who fills out the questionnaire in the hopes that you and all of your friends will take a few minutes to fill it out and tell us how we can make WNST.net better in 2010.

We’re very serious about trying to make our company the best in the market. We really ARE the company that will take your advice because we’re building this web community for the people of Baltimore who love sports.

But, more than any of the other corporate whores who will be getting “outed” next week for their brazen lies, partnerships and duplicity – WNST.net will continue to be a place for an honest exchange of information.

We don’t ban free speech. We’re accessible and accountable for the news and information we dispense. We’re rooted in the community – rooted so deeply that 5% of all of our profits into perpetuity go back to the Living Classrooms Foundation thanks to Brian Billick’s involvement in ownership of WNST.net.

Here’s our mission statement, in case you missed it at the bottom of the site:

MISSION STATEMENT

To fully realize the potential of the vast audience our brand has acquired in Maryland over the past 18 years, WNST.net will be the dominant, honest voice in Maryland media by providing the “real” content of what’s happening in sports in our area.

We will deal with all of our listeners and sponsors with charity, benevolence, dignity and in the effort to educate and help sports fans in Baltimore better understand the big picture of sports so they can enjoy it even more.

We will be an advocate of all things Baltimore and Baltimore sports while keeping a keen “21st Century-oriented” approach to build a bridge between sports and its fans through our website, broadcasts and community activism.

Integrity in reporting and accuracy will be our calling card.

We will:

Educate fans

Serve our community

Promote Baltimore

Promote sports and how it shapes young people’s lives

Promote and support charitable endeavors

Help others make their businesses stronger via integrity-based marketing which will strengthen our community

Show Baltimore that we care as much about our hometown and our local sports as much as they do

Recognize that profitability is the key to survival for our partners, employees and sponsors

We’re not only “sports media” people here at WNST.net. We’re also fans — BIG fans.

If you’ve ever tuned in you know that WNST hosts are the “real deal.” Every host I have at WNST was a fan of Tom Davis and Vince Bagli and John Steadman and Charley Eckman before they got involved in the media side. We all had hosts, writers, commentators that we liked and disliked back in the 1970s and 1980s.

If WNST was originally dubbed, “The Station With Balls,” next week we’ll prove for sure that many of the other “trusted” sources in the marketplace are truly the old world/boys network media who are “ball-less” except for the fact that they carry the play-by-play of the ballclubs – or own the actual network — that no one listens to anymore and none of these media companies can figure out how to make money off of these broadcasts while they allow their “editorial” privilege to go down the drain like a useless infomercial of Baghdad Bob rhetoric and faux-sophistication.

You could say they give up their “balls” to buy other ones…

Sharpen up your Facebook statuses and your Twitter conversations and your sharing tabs because my insights are coming. And I hope to hear yours. Speak out! Tell us how we could be better!

If we suck, tell us! And tell us how to fix it!

Complain about our competitors! (Lord knows, I think most them suck, too!)

You don’t have to worry about any of them reading our site or survey because no one cares what little WNST has to say, right?

“They’ve only got 10 listeners.”

“Their radio signal is too weak.”

“They won’t attract the top-notch talent.”

“Two tin cans and a string.”

These were all direct quotes from The Sun – the dinosaur printed edition — over the years about WNST. Not on a message board. This was allegedly “responsible” journalism by staff writers from The Sun, who only seemed to call me for a quote when some idiot accused me of doing something inappropriate on some internet, toilet message board.

Potty talk about me on message boards are commonplace but assessments like the aforementioned in the biggest daily newspaper are very damaging to a small business but through the loyalty of our sponsors, listeners and now – users to our website – we have thrived amidst economic storm and a rapidly changing medium where the paradigms have been forever altered and no one in the “old boys club” is acknowledging it or recognizing it.

And it’s 2010 and now we’re the market leader because we’ve utilized this tool called the internet by delivering reliable, accurate, instant news, information and expertise in the palm of your hand whenever you want it. We’ve evolved far past being an AM radio station.

And we believe in free speech, not the blatant censorship for profit that our competitors have embraced and think you’re too stupid to recognize.

And we don’t plan on changing that at all!

Because if WNST.net is to be a true voice of the people – and it has always been a community-based company — quite frankly, our content and integrity and authority will speak for itself.

Your graduate class begins on Monday…see you bright and early!

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Lots of questions but not lots of answers for Ravens

Posted on 22 November 2009 by Nestor Aparicio

To say that frustration has fallen across the land here in Baltimore along with an early sunset would be an understatement. Today, once again, the sun continued to set on another season of Ravens football as the Ravens dropped their fifth game of the season as the Indianapolis Colts walked across the purple bird toward the visiting locker room as the winners in their former land of Baltimore.

Today, it is NOT the land of pleasant living.

After a 7th-consecutive disgusting loss for a fan base who built that horseshoe for the Irsay family before having it shoved up its civic backside in March 1984, there are many questions, but few answers the Ravens can provide beyond a disappointing 5-5 record.

Ed Reed and Ray Lewis didn’t even chat with the media. (Why Reed was trying to pitch the ball in that situation is just inexplicable — except that he’s been doing it for a decade, Brian Billick-be-damned!)

John Harbaugh had a rather terse “no comment”-style response in regard to this action.

I’m not a guy who’s ever looked for “goats” in losses. I’ve been around this game long enough to know that mistakes of the physical nature are usually deemed “acceptable.”

It’s pretty apparent that the Ravens have guys in the secondary who are physically over-matched or outrun at various points. That, in a way, is OK. They’re trying hard, doing their best, trying to get in a position to make a play. Domonique Foxworth, Frank Walker, Fabian Washington, Chris Carr — they’ve all had bad days and bad plays in these 10 games, but no one is confusing their results with their effort.

But the mental mistakes? Well, those are the ones that the coaches hate the most. In tennis, they’re called “unforced errors.”

Today, the Ravens made way too many mistakes in decision-making, and most of it came in the last few minutes of the game, opening the door for the Indianapolis Colts after spending much of the day on the all-too-rare “right side” of the Baltimore-Indianapolis 25-year karma.

The Ravens got several calls from the officials and a few good spots. Most of the “breaks” went their way vs. the Colts. They stripped the ball at the foot of the goal line to avert another Indy touchdown in the first half. They picked Peyton Manning twice early and played very, very well on defense all day, especially considering that they were playing the best quarterback on the planet with the fewest weapons and the worst secondary they’ve fielded during the lopsided rivalry.

But the holy trinity of mistakes — all by key members of the franchise — Flacco’s interception, Reed’s fumble and Harbaugh’s screwy use of the clock and the last, few precious timeouts put the Ravens with a full foot into the grave for the 2009 season with a 5-5 record. Only the late afternoon buffoonery of the Steelers losing to the Chiefs and the Bengals bungling a sure victory in Oakland could keep the Ravens off of complete life support. And that doesn’t factor in the relative mediocrity of teams like Miami and Denver, who have become the Ravens’ competition for a 9-7 playoff berth.

Harbaugh also has to accept the Ravens’ share of the responsibility for why Matt Stover was in a blue and white uniform today kicking winning field goals and the purple franchise is working on yet another kicker who missed a kick today in a game that was lost by two points.

So you think this game wasn’t won by the difference between Stover and Bill Cundiff?

Bad snap by Matt Katula not-withstanding, Stover made all of his tries, including the eventual game-winner with seven minutes remaining. Cundiff’s 30-yard near-whiff is the three points that would’ve won the game.

The kicking game has been the difference between being 7-3 and 5-5.

Period. Not a low blow, just a FACT!

So, just how big was the departure of Stover after all? And whose idea was all of this in the offseason?

For Harbaugh, the honeymoon with Charm City is on life support. The media are already agitated by his various peculiar idiosyncrasies and paranoid policies. And the Ravens are a breath away from elimination in 2009, which is probably just about what they’ve earned on the field with various degrees of poor play, poor preparation and lousy decision-making.

What the hell was Harbaugh thinking throwing that red flag after calling a timeout and not calling for a measurement? Honestly, that’s not a leader under fire in the NFL, that’s amateur hour! If that were any other coach blowing it on the other sideline, that’s exactly what we’d call it.

And, factor in the inevitable aging of a less-than-youthful roster and the injuries to the likes of Terrell Suggs, Todd Heap, Haloti Ngata and Brendon Ayanbadejo and you’ve got a recipe for under-achieving that falls far outside of just Harbaugh’s deficiencies. When injuries happen, teams don’t make the playoffs. You can check the track record on that.

You get the feeling that it’s just not meant to be for the Ravens of 2009.

Oh, and it’s Steeler Week here in the former land of pleasant living.

The Purple Haze is on at 7 p.m. tonight (and every Sunday night). Looking forward to chatting about the Ravens’ precarious situation in the NFL cosmos…

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Hey John: You can’t be 4-4 and seriously talk playoffs

Posted on 09 November 2009 by Nestor Aparicio

Just judging from the sheer volume of social media I consumed all day yesterday, the fan base here is in “quit on the 2009 season” mode. The lofty expectations following a rookie campaign for John Harbaugh and Joe Flacco that ended in the AFC Championship Game led all of us in the Charm City to feel as though this year would somehow be better.

Well, we’re halfway through the race and things haven’t gone according to the best laid plan.

The Ravens have lost four of their last five, including yesterday’s turd in Cincinnati. The team, overall, just hasn’t been as good as advertised in many ways. The Bengals have now embarrassed the Ravens twice in four weeks en route to sole possession of the AFC North lead and have earned the right to crow.

While yesterday’s loss certainly felt like more of a beatdown than the final score — and we’ll get to Steve Hauschka’s missed kick in a minute — the NFL only counts one thing en route to a playoff berth in the tournament: wins. And right now, at 4-4, this isn’t going to get it done.

I could make excuses for all of the other three losses — and losing in the waning seconds on the road to New England and Minnesota doesn’t make you a bad team. But the pair of losses to the Bengals has been illuminating, especially when you consider Marvin Lewis’ recipe for building a team with a 6-2 start.

The Bengals have just about everything you’d want — a world-class quarterback with a world-class wide receiver and a running back who runs like Jamal Lewis with a line that’s got a nasty streak. On defense, they’ve built through a young linebacking corps (sound familiar?) and a pair of first-round cornerbacks who allow the safeties and linebackers to play hardball with the pass rush. Oh, yeah — they also arguably have the best kicker in the sport.

The Ravens, as was in full display yesterday, are sorely lacking in various departments but especially the ability to get off the field consistently on 3rd down on defense. It’s been a defensive franchise for the better part of 11 seasons. All good things must end and the 2009 defense is not up to “Play Like a Raven” standards.

Is that Greg Mattsion’s fault? Is that because of the clear falloff at the cornerback position? Is it not having Rex Ryan? Is Bart Scott missed that much? Is Ed Reed OK? Will Haloti Ngata be injured all year?

The entire secondary was beaten in coverage during the first half and the penalties were dreadful. All over the field. Ray Lewis is still the Ravens best player when Ngata is not dressed and that speaks volumes.

The first three losses were “excused” in my opinion. Yesterday, however, did a lot to expose the Ravens as a team that’s pretty good but not a serious playoff contender, especially not with that secondary and lack of pass rush.

Sure, Haloti Ngata’s absence needs to be factored into the equation in the Bengals debacle, but the Ravens have sufficient depth at that position and I’m not sure Ngata would’ve been a difference maker in the outcome yesterday in Cincinnati.

As for the offense, Joe Flacco just was not good enough yesterday, nor was the offensive line, which played its worst game of the season. Penalties? All over the place and ill-timed. Productivity? How about making their first third-down conversion in the fourth quarter? That’s just putrid, unacceptable and not worthy of the NFL playoffs.

They didn’t run well. They didn’t pass well. They were out of sync all day and Flacco looked bewildered during his short stints in the first half. Flacco has now dropped five straight to teams led by Ben Roethlisberger and Carson Palmer.

Derrick Mason and Ray Lewis declined to comment after the game yesterday but I’m sure they’ll have something to say on Wednesday at The Castle.

Harbaugh did his usual tap dance around any tough questions from the media — (memo to John: denying that the team doesn’t tackle well is laughable at this point) — but it’s easy to do what you want when you’re in the AFC Championship Game and things are going better than advertised.

But when the team is a disappointing 4-4 at the turn and the one decision that’s truly pinned to Harbaugh’s special teams badge of expertise — the banishment of kicker Matt Stover in the offseason — costing the team team parts of two of the losses, the questions are only going to get tougher around the head coach and around Steve Hauschka.

This team was supposed to go to the playoffs. This team was supposed to be a Super Bowl contender. The “upgrades” of the offseason were well-calculated and the draft went well. The Ravens and the fanbase were not prepared to be swept by the Bengals and be 4-4 at the turn.

All eyes will now turn to Cleveland, where the Ravens most certainly will awaken eight days from now at 5-4. Right? We can only hope…

The Ravens have amassed four losses and haven’t yet seen the Steelers, the Colts or a frigid December night at Lambeau Field and a West Coast trip to the zoo in Oakland in early 2010. There’s a lot of football left to be played.

The Ravens will sort this out on the field. They need to go 6-2 to have a chance. They need to go 7-1 to be assured of a spot.

If they do it, they’ll be good enough. If they lose two more times to the Steelers, they’ll be playing golf on Jan. 4th and deservedly so.

And if that happens, John Harbaugh’s gonna have a lotta ‘esplainin’ to do at that postseason press conference while he sits next to Steve Bisciotti and the Steelers and Bengals are still playing football…

Things like:

What really happened in the decision to replace Matt Stover with Steve Hauschka?

What really happened with Chris McAlister and how did we get sold that Domonique Foxworth and Chris Carr are upgrades?

Why all the penalties?

Where is the pass rush?

Where is Willis McGahee?

Where is the urgency on offense when the team is down two scores with three minutes left?

Of course, Harbaugh doesn’t really like the tough questions but they’re coming. It’s a tough job. It’s been a lot of fun, this honeymoon of riches and a great start to his era in Baltimore. Getting to the AFC Championship Game as a rookie head coach indeed buys you a hall pass for a while.

I have a feeling a lot of that ended yesterday, with a sweep to the Bengals and a 4-4 record at the turn.

But, as Brian Billick would no doubt tell him, these Monday mornings aren’t a whole lot of fun when the town gets disappointed and the team plays poorly.

And someone has to answer the questions…

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Billick Chaltktalk 101 at Mother’s was a blast…

Posted on 24 September 2009 by Nestor Aparicio

“When you go into the lion’s den, you don’t tippy toe in, you carry a spear, you go in screaming like a banshee, you kick whatever doors in, and say, ‘Where’s the son of a bitch?!’ If you go in any other way, you’re gonna lose.”

A guy wearing this on the back of his shirt sauntered onto the second floor of Mother’s Grille last night for our Billick Chalktalk 101 series with cold Coors Light.

Instead of just writing about, via the power of the internet, we can take you live to Mother’s…

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So, just how irrelevant are the Orioles?

Posted on 02 September 2009 by Nestor Aparicio

Let’s start with these simple facts: the last three days have been the best weather days of this or any other century and Oriole Park at Camden Yards has been pretty much devoid of any signs of life from Baltimore fans. There have been roughly 10,000 Orioles fans at the ballpark each night while the team is en route to probably getting swept tonight by the New York Yankees.

The evil empire. The doers of bad deeds, like paying the best players on the planet the most money to come and continue a winning tradition. They’re easy to hate but it’s mandatory that you respect the New York Yankees.

They play to win. For the most part, they exclude class. And you get your money’s worth.

And you know how much tickets have been for these games?

Yeah, eight bucks. So for just $8 anyone in a four-state area could come and watch the Orioles play under the most beautiful sunsets I’ve ever seen.

So, clearly, people aren’t as turned on by Matt Wieters, Nick Markakis, Brian Roberts, Adam Jones, Brian Matusz, etc. as the ownership hoped we’d all be.

To my way of thinking, after 12 consecutive years of putrid, rancid baseball you’d think any signs of life and youthful exuberance would at least put a spark under people to support this seemingly nice young group of men who wear “BALTIMORE” on their road jerseys, except on Friday nights.

So it’s bad enough that no one really cares about the Orioles. Once again, for the 12th cruel summer in a row, we’ve been subjected to making the Orioles irrelevant in the sports landscape.

But what’s worse? It just occurred to me while seeing the sea of empty seats and hearing these MASN commercials continue to make me want t puke that not that many Baltimoreans have any interest in seeing the best baseball players in the world play for $8, either.

You would think between Derek Jeter, Alex Rodriguez, local frenemy Mark Teixeira and C.C. Sabathia and Mariano Rivera and Andy Pettite, some folks here would love the sport of baseball to come and see several sure-fire Hall of Famers play.

And, like on Opening Day, the ballpark had the potential to be overrun with Orioles fans but it’s not.

They’ve had 25,000 available empty seats the past three nights that the Orioles can’t seem to get their own fans to occupy for as little as eight bucks. And if people don’t want to see the Yankees play for $8 and they don’t want to see this group of “exciting young group of future Hall of Famers” what do they have left to sell?

Pretty sad.

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Orioles continue to sink even lower than we thought possible

Posted on 20 August 2009 by Nestor Aparicio

As the biggest critic of Orioles ownership over the last decade, I’ve purposely refrained from being particularly hard on the team in 2009. Unfortunately for you, the WNST fans and true Baltimore sports lovers, they have me right where they want me. I’m back on the radio without a press pass to their games and no one is going to tune into my show if all I do is tell the truth, and bury them for their ineptitude, mean-spiritedness and general incompetence over the past dozen years for four hours every day.

And at this point, what do I have to lose? Short of them killing me, what do they have left to take away from me?

The team is awful (again), there is not an iota of pride remaining in being an Orioles fan and I’ve watched about 90% of the action this season and I’m here to tell you that it has NOT been a fun or memorable summer for baseball here in the land of pleasant living.

And really, telling the truth — see the paragraph above — is NOT what Baltimore wants to hear from me about the Orioles. It’s like a broken, freaking record — me bitching about the Orioles.

And, here in the summer of 2009, the truth hurts and this blog hurts!

At their current pace, the Orioles “defining moment” of 2009 might be their 100th loss sometime around October 1st and that would certainly speak volumes for where the organization stands in the MLB cosmos.

As every sports fan in Baltimore has uttered at some point since the turn of the century: “Thank God for the Ravens!” And anytime we even think about talking Orioles baseball at WNST, someone will send a nasty note over stating this: “Just forget about the Orioles and talk about the Ravens.”

Well, as I said three years ago during the Free The Birds campaign, I will not be letting Peter Angelos or any of his servants off the hook for this decade-and-a-half civic tragedy — the worst stretch of bizarre local ownership and strategy since Bob Irsay pilfered the Colts off in the middle of the night back in March 1984.

No, we’re not done with the Orioles. As Drew Forrester has said many times: “We’ll either kill them or fix them. It’s their choice.”

But this current dismal summer of dreadful baseball — in a season when “miracle-man” Andy MacPhail has talked about promise for young players — still has six weeks left on the schedule and there are no creampuffs left on the docket and there is no end to the bleeding in sight.

You can piss on me in the comments below all you want, but this current team they’re fielding might be the worst of them all on some nights because we all want to buy into some hope and promise for a better team in the future.

Here is your stat of the day: the Orioles were 40-48 at the All Star break, which is hardly acceptable or decent, although MASN’s lame coverage and “state run” media would tell you this was a team “on the rise.”

Now, the Orioles are 48-72, which means they’ve managed to go 8-24 since Adam Jones doffed the cap in St. Louis.

Folks, that’s .250 baseball and 32 games is about 20% of the season by my math. Of course, when you’ve already put up a legendary 4-32 a few years ago — and for now, we’ll just let the 1988 team off the hook because that had nothing to do with Peter Angelos or 2009 — somehow 8-24 doesn’t sound like it sucks so bad.

But it sucks. And this team sucks. And this ownership still sucks. And the broadcasts still suck. And MASN still sucks. And — once again — it’s another set of broken promises, lies and “come ons” about progress, youth, getting better and competing in the AL East.

And this was supposed to be the time of the season when the team starts to exhibit some signs of hope for the future and some momentum going into 2010?

What stat do you want me to throw at you? They’re 4-14 this month. They haven’t won in a week. They can’t score runs with the bases loaded and nobody out.

They’ve dealt away three veterans and gave Aubrey Huff away for nothing. Every night the team is behind it seems.

And I’m not really sure that any of these young players know how to win or are surrounded by any positive role models who’ve won. Gregg Zaun was the only guy with a ring and they gave him away, too.

Here’s where the orange Kool-Aid drinkers will say: What about Adam Jones? And Nolan Reimold? And the promise of Matt Wieters? Blah, blah, blah…I hope they all step up in 2010 or beyond and make me eat my words. But for now, we report the truth.

And here’s the truth:

The ownership group of this franchise has lied to the city for years about just about everything.

“We’re close” or “we’ll win next year” or “we have some exciting young players” all sounds like incoherent babble at this point. MacPhail has bragged about all of the pitching in the system with the likes of Chris Tillman, Brian Matusz, Brad Bergesen and Jake Arrieta coming to “The Show” and making the Orioles competitive in the elite AL East division.

I’ve now seen them all. They all have some nice strengths but some glaring weaknesses. None of them have the hype of a Ben McDonald and if they’re all as good as he was the Orioles might sniff .500 at their zenith of this era. Pitching is never a sure thing in the majors. Ask anyone and they’ll tell you that.

Ok, so now what happens? This offseason won’t be much different from any in the past. How can this team possibly get better or find talent outside the organization during the winter to compete in the AL East?

When does this team finally turn the corner and even feign some competitiveness that will lead them somewhere near a .500 record in the future?

When will the team be able to attract any top free agents to come to Baltimore and help the team compete with the likes of the Yankees and Red Sox?

Where’s that “veteran, straw who will stir the drink” that the Orioles will bring in to show some leadership?

Once they fire Dave Trembley, who will be the “next victim up” to try to get the Orioles out of the cellar?

When will the team stop banning free speech and allow the legitimate media back into the stadium to ask questions?

When will they stop running these stupid, mind-numbingly phony commercials on MASN that make the games all but unwatchable on top of a team that has been wretched over the past month?

When will residents of Boston and New York stop filling our city and our ballpark with out-of-town fans who boo and jeer young Orioles players from the moment they arrive?

It’s just a dreadful, dreadful product right now — the entire package of Orioles baseball. Going into September, I can’t remember a season worse than this because the promise of these young players from lips of MacPhail and the baseball “establishment” back in the spring was palpable.

We were supposed to feel better about the team at the end of the summer, not worse…

From going to the games to watching the games on TV to following the progress of the team even through the box scores and the standings every day — this really isn’t any fun.

It’s not fun to watch. It’s not fun to talk about. It’s not fun to listen to me on the radio talking about it.

Honestly, to any thinking person this is about the worst summer yet in a dozen horror shows since 1997.

But you don’t really want to hear that from me, do you?

They promised hope. They promised progress. They promised excitement.

They’re dangerously en route to playing the last two weeks of the season and not trying to hit triple digits in the loss column.

They made promises not only to you and me but also to Brian Roberts and Nick Markakis, who were the latest to sign multi-year contracts here under the guise that the team would show progress and get competitive.

Of course, Jim Hunter will tell you every night that 8-24 is progress.

Obviously, from where we sit today, it just looks like the latest batch of lies from Angelos and his henchmen.

Orioles Baseball 2009 — Feel The Tragic!

Ooops. That’s right. I’m not supposed to criticize the home team, am I?

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Young Matusz shoved around by the Angels, lose 5-1

Posted on 15 August 2009 by Nestor Aparicio

Brian Matusz’s night was long and unproductive. In his home debut, he labored through 5 2/3 innings, giving up a whopping 11 hits,  five runs (four earned) and walked three, while striking out seven. He threw 98 pitches and leaves the game with the Orioles trailing 5-1 and two inherited runners.

The game story is here.

The box score is here.

It’s hot. The stadium is kinda lonely for a Saturday night. And the Orioles big night last night with Felix Pie seems a distant memory.

You’ve gotta enjoy the rare wins when you get them.

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Hail Cesar: Matusz impressive in debut win over Tigers

Posted on 04 August 2009 by Nestor Aparicio

9:57 p.m. –The Orioles got a huge rookie debut from Brian Matusz tonight. Cesar Izturis flashed leather and even hit a home run as the Birds defeated the Detroit Tigers 8-2 at Comerica Park.

Matusz on his comfort and happiness after the win: “I’d like to enjoy it a little longer. I was a little nervous out there. I can go out there for my next start and be a little more comfortable.”

On his family: “It’s awesome to have that support, My family and friends have been supportive. It’s awesome. I could hear them all after my first pitch.”

On his effort tonight: “It’s important to really attack the zone. I had a couple of walks today. I fell behind in the count. To not nibble so much on the corner and go after the guys. The strike zone is a little smaller. Relax. Have fun. It’s the same game. Enjoy it and hopefully I can carry it over.”

On Izturis: “Izzy was awesome. He made some great plays. Got me out of a jam. It was a lot of fun.”

9:07 p.m. — The Orioles are, for once, piling on a first-place team. It’s 8-1 and even Melvin Mora has taken out some of his frustration with an RBI single. Matusz was sensational, if not a bit brief. The bullpen has made quick work. It looks like they’re gonna win.

What more can you ask for? Oh yeah — a great photo op of Matusz have a post-effort chat in the dugout with Chris Tillman and David Hernandez. Gary Thorne says they’ve been inseparable.

Hopefully, Tillman and Matusz are as effective as Hernandez and Brad Bergesen have been. Then, perhaps, 2010 will be a far more interesting campaign.

8:37 p.m. — Like a good book or a good movie, tonight Brian Matusz left us wanting more. Like Led Zeppelin. LOL! He’s done for the night. His line: 5IP, 6H, 1R, 1ER, 3W, 5K…his ERA is 1.80, 99 pitches and is winning pitcher of record.

I can’t argue, although he looked like he was just getting going. But he finishes in double-digit pitches and leaves feeling really, really good about his debut. We ALL feel good about his debut.

Could’ve been better and more dominant. But he certainly didn’t give in when he was in a jam. He was impressive!

Nick Markakis just piled on with a two-run homer. It’s 5-1 Birds. Matusz is in line for a W…

8:34 p.m. — You can’t the kid hasn’t been gritty. He’s had some Tigers tee off on him. He’s gotten some nice defense. He’s battled out of some jams. He’s got moxie! The Birds are still up 3-1

8:28 p.m. — Hard to believe Mike Mussina’s debut was 18 years ago tonight. Just incredible how old I am.

8:23 p.m. — All hail Cesar Izturis. He’s having a career night. Two amazing defensive plays. And now, the unlikely home run.

God, these MASN commercials are painful! I haven’t live blogged in a few weeks and it seems that every time I do it’s unavoidable to not point out how bad the broadcasts are. How “homerish” it’s gotten. And how defensive the announcers are in regard to criticism of a last-place team on a 4-13 run after the All Star break.

I’m not looking for “funereal” — but how about just having some balance and integrity for what truly is: A LAST PLACE team. As Peter Schmuck might say: “Don’t pee orange on my cap and tell me it’s raining.”

Matusz has fought nicely. He finally gave up a run in the fourth. They’re playing hasty baseball at Comerica Park tonight.

The Birds are up 3-1. All Hail Cesar!

8:05 p.m. — It’s an exciting night to be an Orioles fan. The future isn’t just “coming” any more. From all indications, it’s here.

Matusz went 1-2-3 in the first. He struggled and battled in the the second inning and got an amazing play from Cesar Izturis, who followed it up with another web gem in the third.

We’re hanging on every pitch. We’re impressed by that slingshot lefthanded delivery. And we’re hearing Gary Thorne and Buck Martinez salivate with each pitch. Martinez seems particularly zoned in on pitch selection, which is good for a former big league manager and catcher. (And this makes it all the more embarrassing when he protects the organization and makes excuses for their last place standing in the AL East. He’s a great baseball man, even if he is from out of town. He doesn’t need to be a shill.)

Well, Matusz is through three innings. The Orioles have staked him out to a a 2-0 lead on a nice offensive output in the first inning with a big hit from Matt Wieters.

Matusz has rosy red cheeks. (Like I said, a lot of weird observations when you’re seeing the kid for the first time.)

I love baseball when it feels like it matters. Tonight, somehow like Wieters debut against Detroit in May, feels like an “ascension” for the organization. For the first time in a long, frustrating summer, we get the “final piece” added to the big league roster.

I’ll be checking in to write and approve posts all night…

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As Trembley rolls under the losing orange bus, I’ll defend him…

Posted on 02 August 2009 by Nestor Aparicio

Watching the post-game press conference with Dave Trembley today has been illuminating. The Orioles are really reeling. The pitchers gave up 23 hits today. They used six pitchers who gave up a collective 18 runs. Their No. 1 starter in the on the disabled list. Next up, they’re apparently bringing in their No. 1 prospect in the organization, Brian Matusz, for Tuesday night and the manager is taking massive heat.

Today they were beaten 18-10 and swept while nearly 100,000 Red Sox fans rolled into Camden Yards this weekend and booed his young players while they floundered.

Before the game, his all-but-washed up veteran and emotional third basemen rolled him under the bus in a pre-game tirade that will go down as legendary.

Melvin Mora went on and on about “respect.” It was about as bad of a thing as you could possibly do to a manager in the middle of a bad stretch.

But I can’t blame this mess on Dave Trembley at this point.

As a matter of fact, since I’ve called for some clarity on his situation a few weeks ago I’ve honestly been tremendously impressed with how he’s conducted himself publicly amidst the losing.

I almost feel sorry for him. But for some reason, he’s not as testy in his post-game press conferences and I’m actually learning a lot as a fan. He’s been honest, decent and even-keeled during this stretch showing patience and concern and sharing real information and real management skills publicly.

You learn a lot more about teams and players and people when teams lose. Everyone’s a helluva winner.

Right now, Trembley’s team is losing and he’s taking the heat with dignity and respect for the media and the fans.

He’s explaining things and doing it honestly. That’s all I can ask for.

Melvin Mora says he deserves more respect. In my opinion, Dave Trembley and the Orioles fans deserve more production.

Here are some of Dave Trembley’s post-game quotes from today:

“I’m just glad our guys didn’t quit. I’m real pleased about that. We didn’t pitch well. To say we didn’t pitch well is an understatement. It wasn’t our day. Had some great at bats. Ran the bases well. They hit the cover off it.

“We’ll get it figured out. I had to extend some guys today. Hendrickson threw 30 pitches last night, gets extended today.”

On Jason Berken: “It’s been hard on him. I’m sure it’s been real difficult situation for him. He’s stuck and we’ve gotta do something to get him out. He’s in neutral and we’ve got to help him.”

On today’s strike zone and the umpires: “I’ve been suspended and paid an awful lot of money. I’m not going to comment on that.”

Zaun: “Who wants to lose your catcher in the 3rd inning of a game? It was a quick trigger.”

On the losing and the poor play: “It’s a lot tougher for them than it is for me. They’re doing the best they can. They didn’t get it done. I’m sure they feel absolutely terrible.”

On Mora and whether they’ve reached an understanding: “I don’t know. I don’t talk through the press. Here’s where I’m coming from: You show up to the ballpark and expect to play. And you do the very best you can all the time. And if you don’t play, you stay prepared to play. It’s about the team and it’s never about one guy.

And all of you people are very sharp and know how we do things. I’m not going to talk through the newspaper or the TV.”

“You pull for your guys. You want them to do well.

“We’ve got a bunch of young guys here. Don’t let the performance and the bad numbers make you think that you don’t belong here or that you shouldn’t be here or you should take a step back. Learn from it and prepare to pitch in four or five days.

“They know what their stats are. They know their performance. They know it better than you and me. And they’re reminded of it constantly. We’ve got to do something to help Berken and try to do something in the best interest of the team.

“You do what’s in the best interest of that person and the team.”

ON THE ENTIRE MORA SITUATION, PRIOR TO THE GAME

“I’m disappointed that he feels that way,” Trembley said.

“Melvin’s been a very good player for a long time. We don’t show disrespect toward anybody.

“I don’t look at things from that side. I don’t look at things from the negative or bad side. I try to do what’s best for the team. I try to do what’s best for each individual, but for the team, as well.

“It’s too bad that people’s feelings are hurt or feel disrespected and all that. That has never been my intent. I’m going to do the best I can for the team. I’ve never taken that stance to be personal toward anybody, and I think everybody understands that.

“I’m trying to help people. I’m not trying to hurt anybody. If I give a guy a day off, guys who are up there in age, they’ve played a long time, guys who are struggling, I’m trying to help them. I’m not looking to hurt them.”

TODAY’S BOX SCORE

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Orioles update: They’re still in last place

Posted on 06 July 2009 by Nestor Aparicio

While we were all busy following the tragic death of Steve McNair over the weekend the Orioles were still busy losing and playing bad baseball. It seems like the franchise goes further into the witness protection program when they play on the West Coast but all of the mistakes and lousy pitching hasn’t been lost on me.

I actually watched all of the late-night garbage over the Fourth of July weekend.

Where to begin?

Well, they’re still in last place at 36-46. They managed to cross the official “midseason” point in the cellar. They still manage to regularly find ways to blow big-early game leads. And, thankfully for me, Jim Palmer is still employed by MASN so I can actually have a few chuckles with my unending yield of losses after midnight.

Palmer continually called it “bad baseball” and reinforced his opinions with many facts, observations and criticisms that would qualify as comedy after midnight if it weren’t so sad. I think he’s almost bored with it and was more interested in making funny faces with Gary Thorne than watching the Orioles blow one more game after a decent starting effort.

I could itemize the entire weekend and point specific fingers but I’ll limit my abuse to simply discussing the Nick Markakis-Brian Roberts fiasco in right field on Saturday night and wonder how the team’s two best players – Adam Jones’ All-Star berth not withstanding – could watch a game-changing routine, can-of-corn pop up land at their feet late in the game.

Of course, after giving up six more runs in the ensuing innings, this boneheaded play seems irrelevant but it was the greatest source of my personal frustration over the weekend.

The Orioles lost three of four in Anaheim. They’re now headed to Seattle before coming home to play Toronto here this weekend. Something tells me there will be a giveaway or a special “2110” promotion.

All I want is some quality baseball and some decent pitching.

Another All-Star Break looms at week’s end and the Orioles are once again in last place.

Some things never change…

I’ll be back on the air at 2 p.m. to discuss all of the baseball you didn’t watch over the weekend because you had better things to do than watch this lousy team lose again after midnight.

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